Mountain Pictures and Others

A Sea Dream


John Greenleaf Whittier

WE SAW the slow tides go and come,
    The curving surf-lines lightly drawn,
The gray rocks touched with tender bloom
    Beneath the fresh-blown rose of dawn.

We saw in richer sunsets lost
    The sombre pomp of showery noons;
And signalled spectral sails that crossed
    The weird, low light of rising moons.

On stormy eves from cliff and head
    We saw the white spray tossed and spurned;
While over all, in gold and red,
    Its face of fire the lighthouse turned.

The rail-car brought its daily crowds,
    Half curious, half indifferent,
Like passing sails or floating clouds,
    We saw them as they came and went.

But, one calm morning, as we lay
    And watched the mirage-lifted wall
Of coast, across the dreamy bay,
    And heard afar the curlew call,

And nearer voices, wild or tame,
    Of airy flock and childish throng,
Up from the water’s edge there came
    Faint snatches of familiar song.

Careless we heard the singer’s choice
    Of old and common airs; at last
The tender pathos of his voice
    In one low chanson held us fast.

A song that mingled joy and pain,
    And memories old and sadly sweet;
While, timing to its minor strain,
    The waves in lapsing cadence beat.

.     .     .     .     .

The waves are glad in breeze and sun;
    The rocks are fringed with foam;
I walk once more a haunted shore,
    A stranger, yet at home,
    A land of dreams I roam.

Is this the wind, the soft sea wind
    That stirred thy locks of brown?
Are these the rocks whose mosses knew
    The trail of thy light gown,
    Where boy and girl sat down?

I see the gray fort’s broken wall,
    The boats that rock below;
And, out at sea, the passing sails
    We saw so long ago
    Rose-red in morning’s glow.

The freshness of the early time
    On every breeze is blown;
As glad the sea, as blue the sky,—
    The change is ours alone;
    The saddest is my own.

A stranger now, a world-worn man,
    Is he who bears my name;
But thou, methinks, whose mortal life
    Immortal youth became,
    Art evermore the same.

Thou art not here, thou art not there,
    Thy place I cannot see;
I only know that where thou art
    The blessed angels be,
    And heaven is glad for thee.

Forgive me if the evil years
    Have left on me their sign;
Wash out, O soul so beautiful,
    The many stains of mine
    In tears of love divine!

I could not look on thee and live,
    If thou wert by my side;
The vision of a shining one,
    The white and heavenly bride,
    Is well to me denied.

But turn to me thy dear girl-face
    Without the angel’s crown,
The wedded roses of thy lips,
    Thy loose hair rippling down
    In waves of golden brown.

Look forth once more through space and time,
    And let thy sweet shade fall
In tenderest grace of soul and form
    On memory’s frescoed wall,
    A shadow, and yet all!

Draw near, more near, forever dear!
    Where’er I rest or roam,
Or in the city’s crowded streets,
    Or by the blown sea foam,
    The thought of thee is home!

.     .     .     .     .

At breakfast hour the singer read
    The city news, with comment wise,
Like one who felt the pulse of trade
    Beneath his finger fall and rise.

His look, his air, his curt speech, told
    The man of action, not of books,
To whom the corners made in gold
    And stocks were more than seaside nooks.

Of life beneath the life confessed
    His song had hinted unawares;
Of flowers in traffic’s ledgers pressed,
    Of human hearts in bulls and bears.

But eyes in vain were turned to watch
    That face so hard and shrewd and strong;
And ears in vain grew sharp to catch
    The meaning of that morning song.

In vain some sweet-voiced querist sought
    To sound him, leaving as she came;
Her baited album only caught
    A common, unromantic name.

No word betrayed the mystery fine,
    That trembled on the singer’s tongue;
He came and went, and left no sign
    Behind him save the song he sung.

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